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House Cleaning 101: Handwashing Vs. Dishwashing

People always try to be more efficient with house cleaning. Doing the bare minimum but saving more of what's available can give you a general sense of confusion. This confusion includes several myths when it comes to handwashing and dishwashing.

How many times have people heard that hand washing your dishes is more energy or water-efficient than using a dishwasher? Almost every time they buy a dishwasher?

But how accurate are these claims? What facts can people take into account if you need to make a similar purchase decision again? Kitchen cleaning can become either a person's best dream or his worst nightmare.

To solve the dishwasher versus handwashing debate, several aspects of washing dishes should be considered.

The dishwasher is the easiest option, but that comes with its concerns, including a smelly dishwasher. And there's more to the puzzle than just convenience.

The data used in the cases studied tracked back to the same German study, so a quick trip to check out a few manufacturers' claims turned up the finding that "dishwashing is more efficient."

According to the study, the typical hand washer's water use for one wash was between 130 and 447 liters, depending on the number of places washed. The study also included a 'minor' group of people who economized on water but still used 30 to 100 liters per wash. This group represents the baseline from which dishwashers' energy and water efficiency is claimed.

However, a review of the original study revealed that the comparison performed with handwashing as the base case in the study showed that most Europeans washed their dishes and then rinsed them under continuously running hot water. They had the hot water running to rinse the dishes the entire time they were washing them.

This habit may be an ethnic quirk or another "selective study" thing for kitchen cleaning, but it certainly doesn't seem to be the norm for those who hand wash dishes.

"Generally, people are not efficient at doing their dishes," says green architect Colin Cathcart of Kiss + Cathcart Architects. "When you let the water run and then pass the dishes under the water so that it drains right down the drain, that is the wrong way to do it."

Compared to that kind of water-wasting handwashing, the dishwasher is always the more eco-friendly option.

So when considering handwashing vs. dishwashing during house cleaning, the upshot is:

  • The dishwasher is more energy-efficient and water-wise if a person washes in more than one sink at breakfast and dinner, provided the appliance is used only once per day and is always full.
  • If the dishwasher is only used once a day, then the water consumption is the same as if they handwash it once a day.
  • The dishwasher uses double the amount of water and the same energy as hand washing in two sinks twice a day. It also uses half the power for the standard cycle and double the energy for the intensive cycle.
  • If there are small loads or frequent loads, a drawer-type dishwasher is more efficient than a large dishwasher whenever you're house cleaning.
  • Handwashing in small households with one to two people can be the most efficient solution if water is conserved while washing and rinsing are not done in running water.

None of the above consider the additional embodied resource and pollution impacts of dishwasher manufacture, maintenance, or end of life and resource impacts.

Nor does it account for the added and more environmentally aggressive chemicals used in automatic dishwashing when compared to handwashing.

As for Cathcart, he says that by handwashing and drying your dishes the correct way, you'll outspend your dishwasher's heat cycle and might save energy.

The how-to for the greenest-possible handwashing (anyone without a dishwasher at all, take note):

  1. Fill half of a split sink with hot water and a small amount of low-polluting dish soap ("get the water as hot as your hands can stand"),
  2. Fill the other side of the sink with clean hot water. Scrub dishes on the soapy side.
  3. Rinse them on the clean side.
  4. Dry with dish towels, not paper towels (remember: the goal is green), or let air dry on the counter.

Using this technique, one is likely using the same amount of water, around 4 gallons, as an Energy Star dishwasher would.

The bottom line is this: people are fortunate to be given choices about washing their dishes, and it will always come down to one's personal preference. People can't always be perfect and make the right choices, but it will make their lives better to do what's best in terms of house cleaning for their family's sake.

By dispelling the above myths and people's constant dilemma between handwashing and dishwashing, it can not only save you tons of water, but it can also make your house cleaning, mainly your kitchen cleaning, way more efficient and eco-friendly.

About Premium Clean

At Premium Clean, we'll take people's minds off house cleaning dilemmas like handwashing vs. dishwashing. We provide them ample time to spend with their families while living their best lives. Premium Clean originated in New Zealand in 2015. Premium Clean is a cleaning company that has completed more than 30,000 cleaning jobs and has continuously operated in more than nine cities.

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